The Ministry of Justice and Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia (WCS Cambodia) conducted the first training courses on “Skills to Address International Wildlife Trafficking for Cambodian Prosecutors and Judges”. The courses run from February 21-25 and are funded by the US government’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) fund.

The ministry’s Department of Criminal Law Research and Training said the course was divided into two sessions, each of which lasted two and a half days with 50 prosecutors and judges from the capital and provinces attending. This course is conducted to boost the attendees’ basic knowledge of wildlife trafficking and improve their skills at prosecuting these crimes effectively.

“The training had a strong focus on the management of investigations, search and analysis of evidence, charges, mutual legal aid in the criminal sector and sentencing,” it said in a Facebook post.

WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha said on February 24 that most prosecutors and judges had a limited understanding of wildlife trafficking issues. Most of the time, the judges and prosecutors tended to use forestry laws to prosecute cases.

“In these training sessions, we discussed areas of the law outside of forestry, environmental protection, or protected area laws. There are many conventions and international laws that could be used to prosecute these cases more efficiently, and now the attendees are more aware of their options,” he said.

Rotha said international wildlife trafficking was one of the major threats to biodiversity conservation work.

“The courts play an important role in combating wildlife trafficking. WCS is committed to – and continues to support the government’s efforts to – end wildlife trafficking and build a world where wildlife and humans can live in harmony,” he said.

Rotha noted that the illegal wildlife trade in the Kingdom has two different aspects. The first is the use of Cambodia as a transit to smuggle cross-border wildlife products to other countries, such as rhinoceros horn or ivory. The second is the trade in domestic wildlife, where traders come to buy native animals like tortoises, snakes, turtles, pangolins, muntjacs or wild boars.